Listening in a mobile world

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Listening in a mobile world

phone in hands

We all probably like to think we’re a good listener. After all, we wouldn’t be able to work with others if we weren’t able to listen, right?

Well, as writer G.K. Chesterton once put it, “There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”

Technology has forever changed the way in which we interact with others. Each day we “hear” a lot, and with mobile technology, we’re able to take in information virtually any time, anywhere. But how much of that are we actually “listening” to? And while most of us think we’re good at multi-tasking, science says otherwise.

A few quick stats:

  • The average office worker receives 122 emails per day[1]
  • The average person sends/receives 32 text messages per day[2]
  • The average person makes/answers 6 phone calls per day[2]

With all of those distractions, how do we ensure that we’re not just hearing others, but actually listening to what they have to say?

Julian Treasure, founder and chairman of The Sound Agency, has created a helpful acronym to facilitate better listening, RASA.

  • Receive – Let the person know what they’re saying is being received.
  • Appreciate – Provide verbal and audio cues to acknowledge your appreciation of what is being said.
  • Summarize – The word “so” is very important when recapping what you’ve just listened to.
  • Ask – Ask questions afterwards. Clarify, challenge and educate.

So how do we balance the need to be accessible, while being engaged listeners?

  • Set expectations – If you’re in a meeting, on a conference call or even at a family gathering and know that you are likely to receive another call or need to multi-task, don’t try and be sneaky; let others know.
  • Be respectful – Don’t multi-task unless absolutely necessary.
  • No Phubbing – Phubbing (phone + snubbing) has become a common occurrence. We all like to think no one sees us texting under the table, but everyone knows what we’re doing, because they do the same thing. Do your best to be fully present during conversations by keeping your phone not just out of sight, but out of your hands.

Mobile technology will continue to change the ways in which we communicate with one another, but if we can remain focused on the art of listening, we’ll be able to cut through all the noise and effectively engage with our peers, friends and family.

[1] THE RADICATI GROUP, INC

[2] Informate Mobile Intelligence



As Communications Manager for Nelnet Campus Commerce, Kevin Sheen is focused on building strong relationships through effective communication. Prior to returning to Nelnet in 2013, he served as Marketing Director for two not-for-profit organizations. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.Kevin resides in a 100+ year old home in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife and four children. He enjoys fellowship, listening to NPR, mowing the lawn, and providing musical accounts of his day.


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